Interview with John Sagaria by Michael Richards

Interview with John Sagaria by Michael Richards



PYRO: Where exactly were you located during the World Record-breaking New Year’s Eve fireworks show in Dubai?
JS: I was located at about the 10:00 O’Clock position on the Palm.

PYRO: How did you get to know Phil Grucci, and how many shows have you helped him with?
JS:  Everybody knows the Grucci family.  I met Phil at the ATA years ago, maybe 7 years ago.  I helped him in Las Vegas.  We used to borrow equipment from each other. I helped him in Vegas and in Dubai twice.

PYRO: Besides the logistics involved in a show of this magnitude, what else made this world record in Dubai stand out in your mind?
JS: (Laughs) The logistics and the sponsor is everything. The sponsor has to have the trust to allow you to attempt it. That’s always been a big thing. I mean, I have big dreams and plans, too, but I haven’t found a sponsor that has that degree of trust. The Dubai Committee (big developers there) had that kind of trust in Phil. They had him put together a 5000-manpower show using more than 200 professionals from the UAE, the U.S., Spain and China.  Man, they had people there for months working on this.  The sponsor pays for all of that.

PYRO: How long were you there?
JS: I was there for 9 days, I think.  I helped set up equipment and machines and helped with all of that.  I think people really started going there in October to start setting up for the main event.

PYRO: As someone on the inside, tell us something that people would be surprised to learn about the show in Dubai?  Something only an insider would know.
JS: The whole thing was so big it is hard to grasp as a whole, really.  A lot of it you would have to ask Phil.  He would know much better than me.  The kind of things I thought were fascinating were things most of us wouldn’t think of.  Things like generators.  There were something like 40 generators used to do this.  It took teams just to bring them fuel and keep them running.  And water, 22 palettes a day just to keep the workers hydrated.  After all, we were putting this all together in the desert.  Forget the fireworks for a minute, think about the food, water and lodging you have to have available for over 200 workers and what it cost per day.

PYRO: Were there language/communication problems since you had so many people from so many different countries working together?
JS: A little but not much.  Everyone was very professional and most of us were very familiar with same kind of equipment.  Even if the words were somewhat difficult sometimes, the electronics and expertise won the day.  Besides, there was always someone around who knew enough of one language or another to get the point across.

PYRO: What did you all do after the world record was secured?   Did you all have a huge party? A celebration?
JS:  The next day we all had the day off, but that night we had to look for cakes and other pieces that didn’t fire, and clean up wires, etc.  There is always an awful lot of work that has to be done after any big show, and this was the biggest, so it was a really long night for all of us.  Plus, something most people don’t know is that they turned off the entire monorail part—my favorite part of the show—because the crowd was in the way.  Even though it would have been spectacularly beautiful to see the 7-mile monorail that heads toward the Atlantis lit up with fireworks, they shut those systems down because the crowd was too close. None of that was fired that night. It wasn’t any kind of technical problem, it was simply a safety issue. And all of that had to be dismantled that night, too, which was no easy task.


PYRO: What recent shows have you worked on and what big shows will you be doing in the near future?
JS: I just did a big show in Trinidad with Firepower Fireworks at the International Socha Monarch
Here is the show for FirePower Fireworks, Khalid Ghany
The fireworks we wired into the stadium accompanied 43 musical artists competing with one another for the chance to be in some kind of final competition.  I think mostly they performed soca (a kind of Caribbean music) and calypso.  Anyway, there was a lot of energy there that night and it was a lot of fun.  The fireworks really electrified the crowd. I think next year I’ll be doing an NFA show and I’m also scheduled to do 3 more shows in Trinidad (one on August 31st) and I should be part of next year’s Super Bowl.  Everything I wired up for this year’s Super Bowl didn’t get used—they decided not to set off the big Roman numerals out front during the television production, but they said they will invite me back again next year to try it again.

PYRO: Do you have a favorite show you’ve worked on?
JS: I think my all time favorite show was the one I did for the PGI in 2013.  It was a reprise of all of my most favorite musical pieces and displays.
We did that show in Butler County, Pennsylvania, at the Cooper’s Lake Campground.  It won the “Best Show of the Convention” when ‘Zambelli’ and ‘Pyrotechnico’ were there in 2013, and it was the “Show of the Week.”  It was an astounding 45 minutes long. The longest show I ever made.

PYRO: Do you think technology is changing the way fireworks shows are done today?  And do you think that is a good thing?
JS:  Technology isn’t changing fast enough for me. I mean the FireOne™ system I use extensively have improved a great deal over the years, but it is just not changing fast enough.  I want to be able to do more now, not have to wait for technology to catch up with what my mind wants to do.  Think about what kind of cell phone you were using 15 years ago.  It was probably a big clunky thing with an antenna.  A great many companies have improved their equipment, and that is commendable, but it is still not advanced enough for me.

PYRO: What equipment are you the happiest with then?
JS:  Well, I’m very happy with FireOne™ and the wireless is very good now. The wireless has gotten a lot better.  We’re using that more and more.  Although, if I can do it with a wire, I do it with a wire, even if wireless is available.  I like to have the flexibility to do both if I want to, and with mostly companies it is usually an either/or kind of situation.  I have never done an entire show wirelessly. I’ve done portions of it, but never the entire thing.

PYRO: There are a great many organizations out there that want to see fireworks further restricted or even done away with all together.  Some for environmental reasons and others who feel fireworks are totally unsafe for consumers and are an uncontrollable fire hazard.  What do you see as the future of fireworks in the United States and Europe?
JS: I think the commercial fireworks will stay the same.  You know, people keep saying that, but in the U.S. more and more states are allowing fireworks.  There is just too much sales tax that can be made off of fireworks for individual states to ban them and watch other states reap all of the financial benefits.  And as far as I know, injuries and fires caused by fireworks are at record lows, too.  They are usually people mistakes anyway.  People can do stupid things with almost anything.  Consumer fireworks are available in more and more places.  I think that will continue to be the trend.  Overall, you have to follow the rules.  On the commercial level, outside of shell size restrictions sometimes, I haven’t had a problem.  I can certainly understand the environmental concerns, especially in shooting over water like in California, but in New York Harbor, there is a lot more pollution coming from other places—much more than from an occasional fireworks show. But I think it is important to be sensitive to the issue and to work with environmentalists.

Here is a partial list of John Sagaria’s major pyrotechnic wins:
1995 PGI Convention Best Show
1997 PGI Convention Best Show
1998 Hannover, Germany, World Competition, Best Show. (Pictured Above)
2013 PGI Convention Best Show